Experts weigh in: Choosing a major
If you’re starting college with an undecided major, fret not. It’s common to delay declaring a major until the end of your second semester of freshman year, and many schools allow you to wait until sophomore year. Rushing to declare a major your first semester may not even pay off; in fact, waiting until your second semester could make you somewhat more likely to complete your degree. Changing your mind is also acceptable – at least one third of undergraduate students change their major at some point in their college career.
» Read: How to beat decision fatigue
How you decide on a major will be unique to you. You may prioritize landing a high-paying job soon after graduation or one that will make you immediately employable. Other students focus on pursuing their passions with less regard for economic payback. Many need to explore a few different fields first to find the right fit and the mandatory general education courses in your first few semesters are an excellent opportunity to do so.
» Read: 5 tips for thriving at college
Your college will likely provide a range of resources to help you plan your academic path. These include academic advisors, career services, and sometimes even “major exploration” centers. To help you get started, we asked admissions experts from across the country for their advice on choosing a major. “Most importantly, don’t panic!” says Dr. Meri Marsh, Faculty Council Chair at Lindenwood University.
The following is a sampling of responses we received from higher ed experts on choosing a major.
“Think about what impact you want to make. What problems do you want to solve? What drives you? What are the things you enjoy? Discovering or realizing your passion in life can be one of the best ways to know you have found the right major.”
Lory King, Associate Dean of Academic Advising at Bellarmine University
“What’s important to understand is that a decision about a major is not a major decision. What we mean is that most employers won’t be concerned about what you chose for a major. They will want you to have a degree and the career-transferable skills and experiences that come with earning your degree. In other words, for most career fields, your major doesn’t matter.”
Admissions Team at University of California, Irvine (UCI)
“You might come to college with a set plan or you might not. In either situation, be open. Talk to professors and advisors for different majors. Reflect on how you’re feeling and be open to new opportunities. College is your time to grow and explore yourself. Academic advisors can help you take classes that keep multiple majors available to you.”
Hannah Stocks, Executive Director for Student Advising and Retention at Kennesaw State University
“Personality tests can help you decide on the right major for you and your interests. These tests can be a starting point on your path toward choosing a major.
Job Shadowing can be a good option if you have an idea of what fields you might be interested in.
Internships are a more intensive method of trying out a career.
Faculty/Advisors can offer a wealth of knowledge about your field(s) of interest.”
Dr. Holly Gruhlke, Chief Enrollment Management and Communications Officer at Dickinson State University
“Take note of the topics you enjoy learning about and that truly interest you. Investigate whether any of those topics could lead to a major or if you can take a class to explore them further. Many people change their major, so don’t worry too much if you don’t make the right choice at first. If you dread going to classes, do a pulse check to make sure you are on the right academic path.”
Mandie Corcoran, Regional Assistant Director of Admissions at Elon University
“Your major is not what will actually get you a job. What will be more important after you graduate is who you are as a person, what skills/abilities/interests you can showcase, and how you develop your personal and professional network.”
Dr. Meri Marsh, Faculty Council Chair and Dr. Kevin Manley, Director of Professional Advising at Lindenwood University
“Try different courses and don’t necessarily commit to a major right away. Through classes, internships, and practicums, students can better determine what interests them, what they’re good at, and how they should tailor their academic paths accordingly. Talk to faculty about career options or graduate school and utilize the career services offered at your school.”
Dr. Tim Gossen, Senior Director of Admissions at Saint Mary’s University